I am looking for the holes
The holes in your jeans
Because I want to know
Are they worn out in the seat
or are they worn out in the knees?
Do your politics fit between the headlines?
Are they written in newsprint, are they distant?
Mine are crossing an empty parking lot
They are a woman walking home, at night, alone
(Looking for the Holes, Ani DiFranco)
Until very recently, I was a Christian. I don’t really know what I am now – I haven’t settled anywhere and I’m okay with that. Right now I’m just wherever I am, doing the same thing I’ve always done, which is mostly trying to be honest. I’ve grown up my entire life in “the church.” Not just in the church but in the Conservative Christian Church. For those of you who grew up in that world, you know what I’m talking about and you know that, no matter what they claim, the order of those C’s is important. I spent most of my life very firmly in the Conservative camp in part because I believed you had to be. They were championing the Important Things, after all. Pro-life, that was a major one. Sanctity of marriage, that was obviously vital for the protection of our… homes and stuff. It got a little fuzzier the further down the line you went. It started getting more difficult (although not impossible) to explain why exactly it was important to Jesus that we fight for no additional taxes for the wealthy or against any kind of gun control at all costs. Somehow it all had something to do with the precarious balance we were always maintaining. This was God’s Country and we were keeping it safe for him. All of this played into that. Good stewardship meant we would fight to combat the rising tide of liberals and feminists and homosexuals and who even knew what else who wanted to take this country over. That was our job and it mattered. For the record? It does feel good to matter, even when you’re delusional.
I always had friends on both sides of the political fence. I liked people who challenged me and, to be honest, I was always more drawn towards liberal people than conservative people. I liked to discuss things. I was certain I was right, of course, but I liked to talk about it. I got more and more uncomfortable as the years went on and there were things I couldn’t reconcile. Whatever the issues were, they got a lot messier when it was people I was looking at, people I loved. I started reading more liberal Christians and, over the course of about a decade, my politics began to shift incredibly slowly. I read Donald Miller, Brian McClaren, Madeleine L’Engle and a number of others I’m not thinking of right now. I read many of them and shared them with my father and he expressed concern that they were focusing on “love at the expense of holiness.” I found this to be such a curious concern. I had spent my entire life seeing the damage that seemed to be being wreaked by people focusing on holiness at the expense of love, surely our natural tendency was clear? Surely we had to be fighting towards love. I got more and more frustrated.
Here’s the thing. What I’ve discovered over the last year or so is that I’m essentially pragmatic. I like theology up to a point, I find it interesting. Regardless of what my beliefs are now, this is all a part of me and I can’t walk away from that entirely and I wouldn’t. But I want to know what’s going to help people in the here and now. There’s so much to do. Have you seen the statistics on poverty in this country? On racism? Have you looked at our sexual abuse and assault statistics? Do you understand that all it takes is for a family to have one medical crisis and, if they’re not one of the lucky ones with great healthcare, they can lose absolutely everything? Did you know a man in Montana was sentenced to 30 days in prison for repeated rape of a 14 year old girl, who later killed herself?
Guys, there’s shit to get done.
In the middle ages, people actually died over theological arguments (and realistically that still happens in the Middle East today). But people die every day in this country while we argue about taxes and health insurance and things like whether or not racism still exists while young black men get gunned down in the street and continue to make up the vast majority of our prison system. It’s a bit tiring. It’s not that I don’t think it’s important that we work out things like the details of budget. I understand that money has to come from somewhere, I really do. It’s just that the details seem less important when confronted with the realities of people dying. Or at least they damn well should.
The truth is that I find I feel the same way about the church much of the time, about God. I don’t know what I think, I don’t know what I believe. And I find that not knowing makes absolutely no practical difference in what needs to get done. Whether or not God exists, whether or not everything I grew up believing is true does not change a single thing that is in front of me. Not one of the things I debated so furiously really helped me help anyone else. It’s all what you make of it. I have nothing against it, I don’t think it’s bad. It’s just that all of the things I most care about are here, everywhere I look, and it’s not getting me there. I am not convinced it truly makes a difference if you believe in Jesus or Mohammed or nothing at all. There’s so much to get done and I just want to know I’m on the team that’s doing it.